Motorists who regularly drive along Tarklin Hill Road in New Bedford will be treated to a detour in the coming days.

Work at the roadway's railroad track grade crossing will go for 24 hours a day, starting at 7 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 5 and ending at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 10. During that six-day interval, Tarkiln Hill Road will be closed to all traffic, according to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

Traffic will be detoured to Mt. Pleasant Street and Church Street. However, officials say that access to all businesses along Tarkiln Hill Road and Kings Highway will be maintained.

The work is part of Phase I of the South Coast Rail project, which aims to connect New Bedford and Fall River to Boston via commuter rail by late 2023.

Along the planned transit corridors, the Phase I work includes culvert replacement, railroad grade crossing improvements, and the construction of drainage ditches and other wetlands. The replacement of four railroad bridges is also underway.

Dozens of new precast stream culverts meet the latest Massachusetts standards for enabling the passage of wildlife, including foxes and other small mammals, to safely pass through, thereby avoiding roadways and the railroad tracks. They will replace granite culverts. The granite will be repurposed by the state's Division of Marine Fisheries "in creating offshore reefs off Cape Cod to improve fisheries habitat," according to MassDOT.

In addition to New Bedford, The Phase I work will be performed in Berkley, Fall River, Freetown, Lakeville, Middleborough, Raynham, and Taunton.

The project will be accessed in large part from two contractor's laydown areas at the Chace Road and Elm Street grade crossings in Freetown. Other secondary staging areas are planned at grade crossings in Berkley, Fall River, and Lakeville. All access to the culvert sites will be via rail, according to MassDOT.

At the Tarkiln Hill Road crossing, Phase I work has been going on for several days now, with a break for the holiday weekend. Traffic has been delayed during those times, leading to some questions and complaints.

State transportation officials have posted many documents and informational materials to a project website, where interested parties may sign up for project updates via email.

A visit to the site on Sunday morning revealed that an old culvert just north of the grade crossing had already been replaced with a new cast-concrete culvert, and that a channelized drainage ditch had been constructed alongside the tracks. Some preliminary site work and grading had already been done, and a small fleet of heavy equipment was parked near the tracks. Orange traffic barrels lined Tarkiln Hill Road at the railroad crossing.

MassDOT says its has been working closely with the City of New Bedford on the Tarkliln Hill Road grade crossing, and that the work is being coordinated and scheduled ahead of a city-led roadway project at King's Highway.

The administration of Gov. Charlie Baker says that the South Coast Rail project is fully funded in the state's fiscal 2020-2024 capital plan, and that federal, state, and local permitting are largely complete.

Two commuter rail stations are planned in New Bedford: a North New Bedford station at Church Street, and a downtown station off Acushnet Avenue near the Whale's Tooth Parking Lot. Plans show a pedestrian bridge over Rt. 18.

Tarkin Hill Roud South Coast Rail

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